Hezbollah chief Hassan Nasrallah’s latest speech, noted for its unusually harsh tone, has raised many questions, especially after he alleged that his party boasts 100,000 fighters and after he made threats to the Lebanese Forces.
LF MP Wehbe Katicha and anti-Hezbollah political analyst Ali al-Amine agree that Hezbollah is incapable at this stage of waging a military confrontation because it isn’t in its favor to change the current balance of power in the region.
They noted that Nasrallah’s divulging of the number of his party’s fighters is a sign of weakness and his loss of footing with his supporters, who like all Lebanese, are suffering from the crippling economic crisis and other daily problems.
Katicha told Asharq Al-Awsat that the unusually agitated Nasrallah threatened not just the LF, but the whole of Lebanon and its institutions, starting with the judiciary and army. He also dismissed his claim that he was protecting Christians and that the party boasts 100,000 fighters.
That is an exaggerated figure and at any rate, fighting isn’t about numbers and the best evidence of that is how the mighty American army floundered in Iraq, he added.
Nasrallah cannot change the current balance of power, neither by weakening or strengthening the state, because that will reflect negatively on him, Katicha added, noting the party’s drop in support among its own followers.
The Hezbollah leader had delivered a speech on Monday to address clashes that erupted last week in Beirut’s Tayyouneh area. The fighting pitted supporters of the Shiite Hezbollah and the Amal movement against the Christian LF.
Seven people were killed in the fighting and dozens injured. Nasrallah blamed the LF for the unrest.
The LF condemned Thursday’s events and blamed the violence on Hezbollah’s “incitement” against Tarek Bitar, the lead investigator in a probe into last year’s blast at Beirut port. Amal and Hezbollah had called the demonstration to protest against Bitar.
Katicha stressed that the LF does not possess heavy weapons.
“Nasrallah meant to intimidate us, but we don’t fear threats and we won’t be dragged towards military confrontation,” he added.
Moreover, he said that Nasrallah’s harsh rhetoric backfired on him because people have expressed greater sympathy towards the LF after last week’s unrest because the majority of the Lebanese reject militias and the possession of weapons outside state control.
Amine echoed Katicha’s remarks in saying that Nasrallah’s declaration of the number of Hezbollah fighters was as sign of weakness and confusion, not power.
In remarks to Asharq Al-Awsat, he described Nasrallah’s speech as defensive. He did not have to reveal the number of his fighters because the public already knows the strength of the party.
“Such a declaration was primarily aimed at his supporters in an effort to lift their morale and as if to say ‘we are strong and we can fight’,” he explained.
Furthermore, he noted how Nasrallah addressed other issues in his speech, specifically Lebanon’s dispute with Israel over offshore gas reserves.
“Shouldn’t Hezbollah’s weapons be turned towards Israel and its violations?” asked Amine. “Why doesn’t he confront Israel? Why have so many fighters if you won’t confront it? Is Iranian fuel oil more important than the theft of gas?”
“Here lies the weakness in his defensive speech. He is incapable of using the fighters because he has cut back on threats to Israel and is losing options,” he stated.
He remarked that Hezbollah’s supporters are suffering from the same social, economic and living conditions as all Lebanese and the party is incapable of solving these issues, so Nasrallah is creating a new problem.
With this, Nasrallah is playing on the edge of the abyss while avoiding becoming embroiled in any security confrontation. He will maintain the current balance of power, where the party is in control and maintains the state of organized chaos, nothing more, said Amine.
In regards to the LF, he stated that Nasrallah’s threats against it are a moral victory to the party.
The LF should not be lured into Hezbollah’s game of the show of force because when it comes to security, the party will always come out on top, he added.